Climate change: Scientists need the wisdom of economists

Scientists say the world is running out of oil. Economists say oil will be around forever; it is just a function of its price. In climate change discussions, economic thinking helps clarify priorities and trade-offs

Scientists and economists live in two different worlds, the former in the world of solutions and the latter in the world of trade-offs. Being both a scientist and an economist, I have a foot in both worlds and have long contemplated why this dichotomy in thought exists. The answer may be found in the discussion around global warming or alternatively, climate change.

How often have we heard the cliche that "97 per cent of scientists" believe in global warming? That is true but only in a trivial sense. As a matter of fact, the number should actually be 100 per cent because every scientist knows that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that is increasing, and greenhouse gases cause warming.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2019, with the headline 'Climate change: Scientists need the wisdom of economists'. Print Edition | Subscribe